Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 26, 2005
Youth experience Jesus' presence
Annual Youth Mannafest allows young people to deepen their faith
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Michela Barter of Lamont has been attending the Youth Mannafest for the past four years and says the event has changed her life.
"Every Youth Mannafest has drawn me deeper and deeper into my faith. Every year that I've come I've been at a different spiritual level, but I've felt that Jesus has just risen to my needs wherever I am.
"I have come looking for a deeper sense of peace in my life and I have found it here. Jesus is the only place where I find that peace," the 18-year-old university student said.
Experience their faith
Barter is one of about 150 young people from across Alberta who spent the weekend of Sept. 16-18 at Providence Renewal Centre praying to Jesus and drawing closer to the Lord. They also sang, danced, learned about their faith and shared with each other.
The event, formerly known as Youth 2000, is a Eucharistic-centred festival designed to meet the spiritual needs of young people throughout Alberta.
The retreat has taken place in the Edmonton Archdiocese and around the world since the mid-1990s. It is a response to Pope John Paul's 1989 call to youth to "bear witness to the faith."
The weekend included talks and workshops on faith issues as well as Confession, recitation of the rosary, music, meditation, all-night adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a Eucharistic procession and the crowning of Mary, mother of God.
"The idea is to bring Jesus to those who don't know him very well," said Lise Schoenberger, the event coordinator. "We want them to have a deeper relationship with Jesus and a better understanding of the sacraments of the Church."
This is the last Youth Mannafest Schoenberger will coordinate. After 11 years attending the event and three years coordinating it, she thinks it is time to move on. Patricia Stephens, a mother of five from St. Theresa Parish, will take over the organization of the event next year.
Father Paul Moret, director of vocations for the Edmonton Archdiocese and one of the weekend speakers, urged young people to be open to God and to accept his gift of eternal life.
"Jesus has given us a gift that is so great that he couldn't have given us anything more; he gave to us his very life," the priest said in a homily.
"He went through hell to save us but he doesn't force us to take the gift. He doesn't impose it upon us. Jesus always leaves us free to accept the gift or to reject it. But when we reject the gift from God, we become the losers because we reject the only gift that can give us life."
Like God, "We want to give the gift of ourselves to others," Moret told his young audience. "We want to show the special people in our lives that we care about them. This is what God does. He gives us himself.
"So we ought to make a choice. It's important that we think about this and that we come to a deeper understanding of what is the gift that God is offering to us."
When Moret asked if anyone had felt called to religious life during the weekend, 14 young people stood up. After the congregation bestowed their blessings upon them, the young people went outside the hall to fill out cards with their names and addresses so the vocations committee can contact them.
The next step?
Donald Sanche, a 17-year-old from Spruce Grove, signed his name for the priesthood, a vocation he has been thinking about since he was a child. He remembers playing Mass as a young boy. He said the weekend brought him closer to Jesus and made him "more comfortable standing up for my faith."
Andrew O'Reilly of Edmonton also signed for the priesthood but said it is too early to know if he is going to become one.
"I'm open to whatever God has in store for me," the 16-year-old said. "The weekend strengthened my faith. It showed me I am not alone in this."
Like most participants, Barter spent time in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
"Jesus truly is present in the Blessed Sacrament and he is continuing to work miracles everyday and a wonderful miracle is the coming together of so many young people who realize that he is there and they have come together to adore him," she said.
"It was a very powerful weekend," said 21-year-old Jeanette Bilodeau of Beaumont. "God placed a real desire in me to be a real gift to others, to love others as Christ loves."